Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2016

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Those of us familiar with infant massage may be surprised by the powerful impact this gentle therapy may also have for infants with breastfeeding challenges. By addressing an infant's soft- tissue restrictions that may negatively impact breastfeeding, bodyworkers are in a unique position to work through the underlying causes of a difficult nursing relationship, and thus potentially improve the quality of life for these tiniest clients. MUSCULOSKELETAL CAUSES OF DIFFICULT BREASTFEEDING Breastfeeding requires complex muscle movements of an infant's jaw, mouth, neck, and upper torso, where the muscles of the throat and esophagus have to engage to facilitate swallowing. These movements all need to happen in a tiny person whose body is just getting accustomed to breathing air. Fortunately, most breastfeeding duos— mother and infant—get along just fine and are able to nurse without assistance. Still, even although the movements involved in breastfeeding are instinctual, some infants struggle to breastfeed because of musculoskeletal issues. Injuries sustained during birth or shortly after, and other developmental or health issues, can lead to difficulty breastfeeding. Infants must be able to lift and rotate their heads in order to successfully maneuver to the breast, adjust the head into a comfortable position, and achieve a proper latch onto the nipple. Infants with neck injuries or torticollis—a condition involving inflammation and an inability to move the neck—often develop a preference for one side or nursing position. When this happens, it can prevent the breast from draining effectively, causing discomfort, inflammation, and sometimes infection for the mother. While positioning the infant in his preferred position during feeding can help, this is an imperfect solution. Eventually, an infant's difficulty turning his head will cause difficulty in other areas and make breastfeeding more complicated than necessary. 80 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j a n u a r y / f e b r u a r y 2 0 1 6 By Grace Burnham & Breastfeeding Bodywork Overcoming Nursing Challenges Through Infant Massage

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